Stuart, John Sobieski Stolberg (DNB00)
|←Stuart, John McDouall||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 55
Stuart, John Sobieski Stolberg
STUART, JOHN SOBIESKI STOLBERG (1795?–1872), and STUART, CHARLES EDWARD (1799?–1880), were two brothers who claimed to be descended from Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the young chevalier, and to be heirs to the crown of Great Britain and Ireland. Their grandfather, or reputed grandfather, Admiral John Carter Allen, was connected with the Marquis of Downshire, and is said to have claimed descent from the Hay earls of Erroll. He died at his house in Devonshire Place, London, 2 Oct. 1800, and by a will dated eight months before left 2,200l. to one son, Captain John Allen, R.N., and only 100l. to another son, Lieutenant Thomas Allen, R.N. (Quarterly, June 1847, pp. 75–6; will at Somerset House). Thomas was probably the elder of the two, for Admiral John Allen (1774–1853), who died at Torpoint, near Plymouth, is called ‘the youngest son of Admiral J. C. Allen’ in his obituary (Gent. Mag. September 1853, p. 310), and, moreover, he became a lieutenant in 1794, Thomas in 1791. On 2 Oct. 1792, at Godalming, ‘Thomas Allen, of the parish of Egham, bachelor,’ married Catherine Matilda Manning, second daughter of the Rev. Owen Manning [q. v.], vicar of Godalming. She was baptised at Godalming 27 July 1765, so at the time of her marriage was twenty-seven years old. Of this marriage were born the two brothers who are the subjects of this notice. The name of their father, Thomas Allen, is in the navy list for January 1798, but not in that for July or afterwards.
Where the brothers were born is unknown, except that the younger says, ‘I was an exile—born in foreign land’ (Lays, i. 322; at Versailles perhaps, according to Mr. Jenner). The dates, too, of their births are uncertain. Those given in the Eskadale epitaph—14 June 1797 and 4 June 1799—are seemingly incorrect, for John, in his lines ‘To my Brother on his Birthday, written 4 July 1821’ (Bridal of Caölchairn, p. 195), writes:—
The winged pace of six-and-twenty years
Has passed full sad and various o'er my head.
About 1811 the reputed secret of their descent from the Stuarts was, according to their own story, revealed to them (Lays, i. 322), and, stirred by that startling news, they entered the service of the ‘eagle monarch’ Napoleon, and fought in 1813 at Dresden and at Leipzig, where ‘S—t swam the wave and Poniatowski sank.’ Napoleon's own hand, they assert, pinned an eagle on the ‘throbbing breast’ of the ‘child of battles;’ and for Napoleon both brothers claim to have fought once again at Waterloo, attired in ‘dolmans green, pelisse of crimson dye’ (Lays, i. 121, and ii. 325; Poems, pp. 72, 73, 189, 193). When ‘the great Imperial sun had gone down,’ they betook themselves to London, learned Gaelic there of Donald Macpherson [q. v.], compiler of ‘Melodies from the Gaelic,’ and in 1817 or 1818 came by sea to Edinburgh. Argyllshire—probably Inveraray—was their principal home for three or four years, and to the seventh Duke of Argyll ‘John Hay Allan, esq.’ dedicated his ‘Bridal of Caölchairn, and other Poems’ (London, 1822). Its forty-two Scott-like pieces contain several allusions to descent from the Hays (pp. 120, 168, 205, 337), a reference to Prince Charles Edward as ‘the last of Albyn's royal race’ (p. 169), a suggestion that the author belonged to the English church (p. 253), but no hint of Napoleonic campaigns. ‘Stanzas for the King's Landing’ (A Historical Account of his Majesty's Visit to Scotland, Edinburgh, 1822, pp. 62–4) must have been written by one of the brothers, and Charles and his father were perhaps the ‘Allans’ presented at Edinburgh to George IV. It may have been then that Scott ‘saw one of these gentlemen wear the [Erroll] Badge of High Constable of Scotland’ (Journal, ii. 298). John says he was absent from Scotland during 1822–1826 (Reply to the Quarterly, p. 4); but Miss Louise Macdonell speaks of having often seen both brothers at Glengarry between 1822 and 1828, where the first date perhaps is erroneous (Blackwood's Mag. April 1895, pp. 523–4, 530). In London, on 9 Oct. 1822, ‘Charles Stuart, youngest son of Thomas Hay Allan, esq., of Hay,’ married Anna (b. 1787), widow of Charles Gardiner, esq., and youngest daughter of the Right Hon. John Beresford, the Earl of Tyrone's second son, and brother to the first Marquis of Waterford (ib. November 1822, p. 691). From about 1826 to 1838 the brothers were living in Elginshire, first at Windy Hills (now Milton Brodie) in Alves parish, and then, from 1829, at Logie House, in Edinkillie parish. The Earl of Moray gave them the full run of Darnaway Forest, where they built their ‘forest hut’ of moss beside the Findhorn, and during this period they continued protestants, for, dressed as always in full Highland garb, they attended the presbyterian worship in the parish kirks. But from their settling in 1838 on Eilean Aigas, a lovely islet in the river Beauly, where Lord Lovat built them an antique shooting lodge, they seem to have been devoted catholics. Eskadale, where they are buried, is two miles above their islet, and every Sunday they used to be rowed up to mass, with a banner flying, which was carried before them from the riverside to the church door. In 1829 they had come to style themselves Stuart Allan. In 1841 the ‘New Statistical Account’ (xiv. 488) speaks of ‘Messrs. Hay Allan Stuart, said to be the only descendants of Prince Charles Edward;’ and in 1843 a Frenchman, the Vicomte d'Arlincourt, first published their claims to royal ancestry. In 1847 the brothers themselves put forth their own ‘Tales of the Century,’ which tells how in 1773 the Countess of Albany gave birth unexpectedly to a son, who three days afterwards was handed over, for fear of assassination by Hanoverian emissaries, to the captain of an English frigate, ‘Commodore O'Haleran,’ rightful ‘Earl of Strathgowrie;’ how later that son, as ‘Captain O'Haleran’ or the ‘Iolairdhearg’ (Gaelic, red eagle) was himself in command of a frigate off the west coast of Scotland; and how in 1790 he married, under romantic circumstances, an English lady, ‘Catharine Bruce.’ O'Haleran (in M. d'Arlincourt ‘Admiral Hay’) here stands plainly for Allen or Allan—Erroll is in Strathgowrie; and the centenarian ‘Dr. Beaton,’ on whose testimony the alleged secret of their royal birth turns mainly, may be safely identified with Robert Watson, M.D. (1746–1838) [q. v.], the discoverer of the Stewart papers, with whom the brothers are known to have had some dealings. But the tale is demonstrably false. Admiral (then Captain) John Carter Allen, the brothers' genuine grandfather, who figures in the narrative as Commodore O'Halleran, was not on active service, but on half-pay, from 14 Aug. 1771 to 8 Nov. 1775. At the same time Bishop R. Forbes's ‘Lyon in Mourning’ (Scot. Hist. Soc. 1896, iii. 329), under date 21 Sept. 1774, has a curious passage telling how ‘lately a Scots gentleman, son of a noble family, and captain of a ship-of-war in Britain,’ met Prince Charles Edward at the opera in Rome. But then, through Robert Chambers, this passage is sure to have been known to the brothers, and may have suggested much that they admitted to their ‘Tales.’ In ‘The Heirs of the Stuarts’ (Quarterly Review, June 1847), Professor George Skene of Glasgow made a pitiless onslaught on both the ‘Tales’ and the ‘Vestiarium Scoticum, with an Introduction and Notes by John Sobieski Stuart’ (folio, Edinburgh, 1842). The latter professed to be from the sixteenth-century manuscript of a ‘Schyr Richard Urquharde, knycht,’ showing the tartans of ‘ye chieff Hieland and bordour clannes.’ John, or ‘Ian,’ or ‘Ian Dubh’ (Gaelic, Black John), rejoined with ‘A Reply to the Quarterly’ (Edinburgh, 1848), where he ascribes the reviewer's hostility to his partisanship of a rival claimant, ‘General Charles Edward Stuart, Baron Rohenstart’ (1781–1854), a soi-disant grandson of Miss Walkinshaw [q. v.], who was killed in a coach accident at Dunkeld, and is buried in the ruined nave of the cathedral. Other works by the brothers were the sumptuous but grotesquely illustrated ‘Costume of the Clans’ (folio, Edinburgh, 1843), and ‘Lays of the Deer Forest’ (2 vols. 8vo, Edinburgh, 1848). Their kingly origin and Napoleonic exploits are dwelt on largely in the latter work (which is not without merits) and in ‘Poems,’ by Charles Edward Stuart (8vo, London, 1869).
On 23 Sept. 1845, writing to Robert Chambers, John announces his marriage next month, in London, to Miss Georgina Kendall, ‘of a very old Saxon family.’ She was the second daughter of Edward Kendall of Austrey, Warwickshire, J.P. ‘My future lady,’ he remarks, ‘has only ten thousand pounds,’ and he goes on to ask a loan of 100l. They seem never to have lived together, though she survived him sixteen years, dying at Bath on 13 Feb. 1888, and though in Eskadale church there is a tablet professing to be erected by her ‘to the dear memory of John Sobieskie Stuart, Count d'Albanie.’ Charles's wife and a sister, Miss Beresford, who lived with them at Eilean Aigas, had between them 1,000l. a year; but there seems to have been a break-up in 1845 or 1846. Books were sold and Mrs. Stuart was even threatened with arrest. Charles was at Prague in 1845–6, and for years the whole family lived in Austria-Hungary, chiefly there and at Presburg, where Charles's wife died, 13 Nov. 1862. Mr. Dunbar Dunbar ‘was told by Baron Otto von Gilsa, chamberlain to the Emperor of Austria, that in His Imperial Majesty's dominions the claim of the Count to royal descent was never doubted. … At Prague, it is said, the military always saluted the brothers as royal personages, and those who were “presented” to them “kissed hands”’ (Documents relating to the Province of Moray, Edinburgh, 1895, pp. 166–171). Meanwhile Thomas Allen, or ‘Thomas Hay Allan, esq., of Hay,’ or ‘J. T. Stuart Hay,’ or ‘James Stuart, Count d'Albanie,’ their father, died on 14 Feb. 1852 at 22 Henry Street, Clerkenwell, where he had resided for seven years preceding his decease, during which time he never left his apartments. He was buried in old St. Pancras churchyard (Introduction to the 1892 reissue of Costume of the Clans, p. xvii).
When or why the brothers left Austria is unknown, but some time before 1868 they both were living in London, where, although desperately poor, they went into society, and, with their orders and spurs, were well-known figures in the British Museum reading-room. A table was reserved for them, and their pens, paper-knives, paper-weights, &c., were surmounted with miniature coronets, in gold. John died on 13 Feb. 1872; and Charles, who, after his brother's death, himself assumed the title of Count d'Albanie, died suddenly at Pauillac, near Bordeaux, on Christmas day 1880 (Comte L. Lafond, L'Écosse jadis et aujourd'hui, 1887, p. 293). Both are buried at Eskadale under a Celtic cross, whose Latin and Gaelic epitaph was written by the late Colin C. Grant, for twenty years priest of Eskadale, and afterwards bishop of Aberdeen.
John left no issue, but Charles had one son and three daughters. The son, Charles Edward, born in 1824, rose between 1840 and 1870 to be a colonel in the Austrian cavalry, and on 13 Aug. 1873 was captured with the yacht Deerhound off Fontarabia running Carlist munitions. On 16 May 1874 he married Lady Alice Emily Mary Hay (1835–1881), daughter of the seventeenth Earl of Erroll, and granddaughter of William IV. He died in Jersey without issue on 8 May 1882. Of the daughters, Marie (1823–1873) died at Beaumanoir on the Loire; Louisa Sobieska (1827?–1897), married Eduard von Platt, of the Austrian imperial bodyguard, and had one son, Alfred Édouard Charles, a lieutenant in the Austrian artillery; and Clementina (1830?–1894) became a Passionist nun, and died in a convent at Bolton, Lancashire.
The brothers were courteous and accomplished gentlemen. But apart from their Stuart likeness, the sole strength of their pretensions would appear to reside in the credence and countenance accorded them by men of rank and intelligence, such as the tenth Earl of Moray, the fourteenth Lord Lovat, the late Marquis of Bute, Sir Thomas Dick-Lauder, and Dr. Robert Chambers.[Works already cited; The Last of the Stuarts, probably by the Vicomte d'Arlincourt, in Catholic Mag. for March 1843, pp. 182–90; his Les Trois Royaumes, Paris 1844, English transl. 1844, i. 207–22, 246; a little tract-like reprint from D'Arlincourt, which the brothers would give to a convive at a dinner party, and on whose flyleaf is a letter of date April 1816, by J. B. Bellemans, to the Journal de la Belgique, announcing the presence in Belgium of several descendants of the house of Stuart; Chambers's Edinburgh Journal for 18 May 1844, p. 312; letters written by John about 1845 to Dr. Robert Chambers, and now in the possession of Charles Edward Stuart Chambers, esq.; Dean Burgon's Memoir of Patrick Fraser-Tytler, 2nd edit. 1859, pp. 286–7, describing their visit in 1839 to Eilean Aigas; A. von Reumont's Gräfin von Albany, Berlin, 1860, ii. 290–3; Dr. Doran's London in Jacobite Times, 1877, ii. 390–411; Notes and Queries, under ‘Albanie,’ ‘Stuart,’ passim, but specially about 1877; Vernon Lee's Countess of Albany, 1884, pp. 40–5; Life of Agnes Strickland, 1887, pp. 151, 162, 233; W. P. Frith's John Leech, 1891, ii. 7–8; The Athenæum, 30 July 1892 and 29 July 1893; Dean Goulburn's Life of Dean Burgon, 1892, i. 74–5; F. H. Groome's Monarchs in Partibus, in the Bookman, September 1892, pp. 173–5; Donald William Stewart's Old and Rare Scottish Tartans, Edinburgh, 1893, pp. 42–56; Archibald Forbes's Real Stuarts or Bogus Stuarts in the New Review, 1895, pp. 73–84; Percy Fitzgerald's Memoirs of an Author, 1895, ii. 85–9; Journals of Lady Eastlake, 1895, i. 54–5; five articles to establish the genuineness of the ‘Vestiarium,’ by Andrew Ross, in the Glasgow Herald for 30 Nov., 14, 21, 28 Dec., 1895, and 4 Jan. 1896; The Sobieski Stuarts, by Henry Jenner, in the Genealogical Magazine for May 1897, p. 21; John Ashton's When William IV was King, 1896, pp. 222–3, for the brothers' visit to Ireland, in kilts and with a piper, in May 1836; besides information supplied by Father Macrae of Eskadale. Dr. Corbet of Beauly, the Rev. George C. Watt of Edinkillie, Mr. R. Urquhart of Forres, the late Mr. John Noble of Inverness, the Rev. Sir David Hunter-Blair, O.S.B., of Fort Augustus, Prof. J. K. Laughton, and the Rev. L. H. Burrows of Godalming.]